xv Introduction society. To scholars, policy makers, politi- cians, and thoughtful citizens who believe in strong gun control, the problem is the mas- sive destruction to human life created by the presence of guns in the United States— mainly from homicide and suicide, much less so—but no less important—from acci- dents (in the 2020s, some 45,000 lives lost annually to homicides, suicides, and acci- dents there were also serious injuries num- bering in the tens of thousands). They view this state of affairs as a “public health” prob- lem, akin to the classic public health prob- lems of infectious diseases or uncontrolled dangerous products and substances (e.g., lead-based paint). The public health approach does not ignore the importance of individual choices, attitudes, and behaviors, but the emphasis tends toward the more sociologi- cal, the more structural, the more regulatory. That is, set up the situation so that when bad individual choices are made, the cumulative negative effects are minimized. The con- quest of infectious disease via vaccination, sewage control, and quarantine is the arche- type of this approach. More closely related to the public health problem of gun violence is the much- heralded achievement of the public health approach in reducing the fatalities, injuries, and economic-social-personal costs of motor vehicle accidents. In the early 1950s, There is hardly a more contentious issue in American politics than the ownership of guns and various proposals for gun control. —National Research Council, Firearms and Violence (2005, 1) [G]un control advocates assume that if they win the argument about the public health consequences of gun violence, they will win the broader debate about how to regulate firearms. This line of thinking fails to account for our opponents’ claims about the importance of guns to our cultural and politi- cal values. Gun control advocates have spent the past three decades trying to persuade the public that guns are dangerous, while gun rights groups have been arguing that guns are essential to our freedom. —Joshua Horwitz and Casey Anderson, Guns, Democracy, and the Insurrectionist Idea (2009, 226) Politics is inherently controversial because human beings are passionately attached to their opinions by interests that have nothing to do with the truth. —Harry V. Jaffa, Distinguished Fellow, Claremont Institute (2011, BR16) Ultimately, the debate over guns in U.S. soci- ety boils down to a philosophical argument about the role of government in modern society, and more particularly in American
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